This is my friend Shelby. She frequently visits the shelter I help at. I met her there last Christmas when my family and I went to go help serve Christmas dinner. She usually wears sunglasses and a cute hat. I’ll join her towards the end of lunch and she’ll tell me what the squirrels say when she drinks her coffee in the park. She also shares about her daughter in New Mexico, her kittens, and the life she once knew a long time ago.
Yesterday, she approached me and asked if I would pray for her. She said she was on day 5 of her “new life”. She couldn’t tell me what her new life was all about or what it entailed but she knew that she needed a new life and that she couldn’t live it without a little help. I was honored to sit next to her and say a prayer.
I have to admit, I wonder why she asked me. We’ve never really talked about faith before. Most of the time I just sit and listen. When I’m not sitting with her, I’m usually helping participants fill out assistance forms or hauling bags of dog food for our pet assistance program. It’s not like I wear a t-shirt that says “Licensed Minister” and I know she’s never read my blog.
The only conclusion I can make is that maybe all that sitting, listening, smiling, and serving has made an impression that no amount of preaching, shoulder patting, scripture quoting, or advice giving could ever make.
Whatever the reason, I’m glad she asked me to pray and I’m still praying that her “new life” continues on to day 6, day 7, 8, 9, 10 and keeps on going.
This year we decided to start a new family tradition. Like many families hit by economic downturn, we didn’t exactly have a ton of presents under the tree. That’s tough for a parent. We want to spoil our kids with all sorts of toys and goodies. Our three boys have been anticipating this day all year and we wanted to do it right.
Something struck me a few weeks ago, though. My work with WorldHope.us has been seriously educating me on what it means to not have much. I felt down about semi-empty stockings while people in my own community are sleeping under the bridge. And you know what? We have something so many don’t have: each other.
So, we decided to share each other this year at a local homeless shelter called King’s Harvest. In 2009, they served 27,000 meals to the poor and needy. Our objective was simply to go and be a blessing to someone during Christmas lunch. It turned out to be the best Christmas experience I’ve had in a long time.
There were so many volunteers there that they didn’t need us to serve so we found someone who was all alone and planted ourselves next to her. Her name was Shelby and she had no family. Her children all lived far away and she hasn’t heard from them in several years. Her only companion was a kitten, and he ate half of what little food she had. We had the great privilege of being her family for the next hour.
We learned that she’s lived in New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Upper Michigan just like me. She was a Farah Faucet fan and she likes Lee Majors. She finds the mountains of Albuquerque beautiful and a spiritual experience to explore. As we shared stories, laughs, and observations, I couldn’t help but notice the gradual change in her countenance. Life begun to show in her eyes, she smiled more, and she became much more demonstrative.
At one point, a homeless woman stood at the front of the room and sang “Silent Night” with incredible passion and grace. The whole room erupted in applause and then we continued our conversation. Shelby told us how she’s been so lonely and depressed and what a gift it was to spend time with us. It lifted her spirits and blessed her heart. It was a blessing to me too! Thank you Shelby, for letting us be your family for an hour!
I have to admit, it was such a blessing to be a blessing. Acts 20:35 is SO TRUE! “It is more blessed to give than to receive.“ I’ll treasure the experience (and keep going back to help some more) far longer than any of my Christmas presents will last and my boys are learning the value of giving of themselves to bless others.
So what? I’m learning that no matter how little we have, we still have enough to bless those with less. What an incredible lesson!
Cole, Forrest, and Hudson with their new friend Shelby
There is a group of interns that I have the honor of meeting with on a regular basis. We pray together, read the dead guys, and hold each other accountable. For a few months now, we’ve been mulling over Isaiah 58. It’s really gotten a hold of us! Break the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, and feed the hungry. It’s a picture of God’s heart and a list of things that we should be doing if we call ourselves believers.
It’s so easy to look at the massive need in our world and become totally overwhelmed! But God doesn’t ask us to fix it all, he just asks us to do something. So my four interns decided to sponsor a child in Kenya (that’s her picture above). They combined what little spare income they had and gave it to an orphanage so that a little girl can have food, shelter, and clothing. It’s an incredible honor when we act and become the answer to someone’s prayer. I know what you’re thinking, “So what. It’s only one little girl. What kind of difference will it make in the long run?”
Consider the following story by Loren Eiseley. My youth pastor used to tell it to me when I was a teenager:
Once, after the tide went out, there were thousands of starfish laying out on the beach. They were dying because there was no way for them to get back into the water. The sun was rising and the poor starfish were literally baking in the heat. Running along the beach was a little boy. He was frantically grabbing the starfish and tossing them back into the ocean. As he continued along the beach, he met an older man. When the old man asked what he was doing, he explained that he was saving the starfish from dying on the beach. The man replied, “Are you crazy? The beach goes on for miles and there are thousands of starfish out here. How can you think you can possibly make a difference?” The boy reached down, grabbed a starfish, tossed it into the ocean, and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
I received a new picture, the other day, of our little starfish named Doris. She’s wearing a school uniform and has the most beautiful smile on her face. It was a $360 picture and was worth every cent! As you wonder if you can possibly make a difference in a world with so much poverty, disease, and hunger please realize you can. You may not be able to save the world, but you can make a difference in the life of a starfish or two.